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What Makes You Hot

LESSON OVERVIEW: The amount of solar energy absorbed or radiated by Earth is modulated by the atmosphere and depends on its composition. Greenhouse gases - such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane - occur naturally in small amounts and absorb and release heat energy more efficiently than abundant atmospheric gases like nitrogen and oxygen.

The interconnectedness of Earth's systems means that a significant change in any one component of the climate system can influence the equilibrium of the entire Earth system.

Students will be able to manipulate different variables in this lesson's model and make inferences about the temperature of Earth.

Driving Question

What makes you hot?

Grade Level

Grades 9-12

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to manipulate different variables in the model and use this to make inferences about the temperature of the Earth.

Lesson Time Requirement

Four-five 50-minute class periods in a regular Physics currriculum (2 1/2 days for IB curriculum)

Climate Literacy Principles Addressed

  • The Sun is the prmary source of energy for Earth's climate system
  • Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system

Colorado State Standards Addressed

  • High School: PS5, PS6, ES4
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About the Authors

These Making the Global Local teachers teamed up to share their expertise and collaborate in developing and piloting a reform-oriented lesson about what makes us hot for 9th - 12th grade students.

  • Grant Euler, Physics and Environmental Sciences, Arvada High School
  • Brian Huang, Physics, Centaurus High School
  • Joanna Griego, Biology and Chemistry, Trinidad High School

These problem-based lessons were developed through an innovative process that brought together teachers, scientists and science education faculty for "Making the Global Local (MGL)," a teacher professional development workshop hosted by CU-Boulder in July 2009.

Developing and teaching of the lessons is centered around a single driving question that students explore, discuss and answer. While addressing a variety of Colorado content standards, the lessons also seek to localize climate change for Colorado middle and high school students. MGL teachers then took their newly developed lessons to test and refine them in their own classrooms during the Fall 2009 semester.

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